By James Hancock August 28th, 2015
Based on Robert C. O’Brien’s novel of the same name, director Craig Zobel’s new film Z for Zachariah features Margot Robbie as a lone woman on a farm struggling to survive in the aftermath of a radioactive apocalypse. She lives in a valley that is largely untouched by the fallout and spends her days hunting for food and planting crops. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays an engineer who has barely survived the outside world due to his hazmat suit and fate brings him into contact with Robbie’s character when she discovers him unwittingly bathing under a radioactive waterfall. After nursing him back to health, Robbie and Ejiofor set to work on repairing the farm and in their own way rebuilding civilization from scratch. It is the perfect articulation of so many male fantasies, trapped in an isolated environment in the company of a stunningly beautiful woman who is a remarkable individual in a variety of ways. But just as they are discovering their love for one another, the story serves up what feels like a cruel cosmic joke with the arrival of the sexiest redneck alive, a miner played by Chris Pine. He might not have the brains and know-how of Ejiofor, but he is a person of faith like Robbie and shares a similar background. It is only a matter of time before the three characters find themselves in a classic tension-filled love triangle as they struggle with their feelings of desire and jealousy amidst their efforts to restore electricity to the farm before the onset of winter. Male or female, it is impossible not to be intrigued by the scenario at play in this story.
I’m still processing the flick and can’t quite figure out what I think about it. There were lengthy sequences where I was feeling a little boredom creeping in but I found myself increasingly riveted by the characters’ predicament as the movie progressed. Then just as I was starting to fall in love with the movie, the film abruptly stopped with a quick, ambiguous finale that had everyone in attendance hotly debating their interpretations as they left the cinema. I usually am not one to omit spoilers from my reviews but in that the hook of the film hinges on the conclusion, this is one movie where I am going to keep my cards close to my chest. What I will say is that the three leads all deliver fine performances. There are also many sequences that are incredibly satisfying to watch as the three characters pool their knowledge and skill sets to make improvements on the farm, ending each hard day of work with a healthy meal and a bottle of wine. I also love the ambiguity of the disaster that befell the planet. Over the course of several conversations between the characters we learn just enough to keep our curiosity piqued. If I seem hesitant to shower the movie with praise it is only due to my suspicion that I will likely not watch it again anytime soon. That said, I enjoyed the movie and it only confirmed my pre-existing admiration for all three leads. Director Craig Zobel’s work is new to me but I will definitely take an interest in whatever he chooses to make next.
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